(WTTW News)

More than half of IDOC inmates serving a life sentence are 55 or older. Caring for an aging prison population is a costly endeavor, advocates say, and the health care elderly prisoners do receive often falls short. That’s why some are calling for a new parole system.

(WTTW News)

In 1978, Illinois shifted from an indeterminate to a determinate sentencing system — effectively eliminating parole as most people are familiar with it. Now some advocates are calling for changes to allow inmates over 55 the chance to be paroled.

Myla Martinez, 6-year-old, enthusiastically greets her mother Crystal Martinez as she and her four younger siblings spend time her with her during a special visit at Logan Correctional Center, Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Lincoln, Illinois. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

The number of incarcerated women in the United States dropped by tens of thousands because of COVID-19. But as the criminal justice system returns to business as usual and prison populations creep back to pre-pandemic norms, more children are being separated from their mothers.

Kameron Huckleby (WTTW)

Kameron Huckleby is on the road home after incarceration, and he’s on the road to helping others do the same as a re-entry navigator in training with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.

Francisco Perez (WTTW News)

Francisco Perez gives “La Ultima Palabra” on why he says creating a smoother landing for people leaving incarceration is good business for everyone.

Stores line the street in downtown Pontiac, Illinois. (WTTW News)

The town is also home to Pontiac Correctional Center, one of only three maximum security Illinois state prisons. Just outside the prison’s doors is a neighborhood of single-family homes and a playground.

Pontiac Correctional Center (WTTW News)

The conditions that come with Pontiac Correctional Center’s age are just part of the reason inmates and advocates call it inhumane. Another reason is the climate inside. WTTW News details the issues facing the maximum security prison. 

Small business owner Gia Davis gives “the last word” on why she says hiring returning citizens just makes good business sense. (WTTW News)

About 26,000 people leave Illinois prisons each year, and many of them report having trouble finding employment once they’re home.

(WTTW News)

The West Side nonprofit offers workforce development and mental health and substance abuse services, among other supports. Leadership said their recidivism rates are a fraction of the state average.

(WTTW News)

“I’m grateful to Director Jeffreys for his years of service, ensuring the dignity and safety of the incarcerated people of Illinois,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. 

At HHP Lift’s Liftworks social enterprise program, participants are taught how to manufacture home goods while also learning basic workplace skills. (Courtesy of HPP Lift)

Research shows formerly incarcerated people who maintained employment for one year after release had only a 16% recidivism rate, compared to a 52% rate for those who did not stay employed.

(WTTW News)

A 2018 report found 43% of those released from prison in Illinois will be convicted of another crime and return to prison. About a quarter of those re-offenses are for so-called “technical violations” like violating curfew or missing a meeting with a probation officer.

Orlando Mayorga delivers a talk as part of FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)

Thousands of restrictive laws govern people who have been released from prison in the United States, making it difficult for them to find housing, employment and to restart life after they have done their time.

Tawana Pope is featured in FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)

Tawana Pope and Nicholas Crayton had their own unexpected journeys and challenges, but continue to push for a better life. Pope is the founder of the nonprofit Diamonds In The Making Outreach and previously had been in and out of jail, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Crayton was released from prison just last year from the Life Skills Re-Entry Center.

(WTTW News)

It’s been 20 years since then Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 people on death row, marking a major step toward the eventual abolition of the death penalty in the state.

Former Illinois Correctional Lt. Todd Sheffler returns to federal court in Springfield, Ill., on April 21, 2022. (AP Photo / John O’Connor, File)

Three former Illinois prison guards face life behind bars after the 2018 fatal beating of a 65-year-old inmate in a case marked by the unpunished lies of other correctional officers who continue to get pay raises, records obtained by The Associated Press and court documents show.